Proper way to test circuit safety

Discussion in 'Electrical Forum discussion & Blog' started by Scubamam, Oct 14, 2012.

  1. Scubamam

    Scubamam New Member

    Messages:
    5
    Location:
    North Carolina
    We had OSHA inspectors enter our office and gave citation for unsafe outlet near a sink. They used a pen like device that lit up at the outlet. There was a gfci outlet on the same circuit that they were unaware of. Did they properly test this circuit? Should they have used different testing devices? Our electrician said that all was done to code and circuit was fine. I need proof of incompetence on their part to win my case. Any help greatly appreciated!
  2. LLigetfa

    LLigetfa DIYer, not in the trades

    Messages:
    3,901
    Location:
    NW Ontario, Canada
    Why were they not aware of the GFCI? Was the outlet not marked as being GFCI protected?
  3. Scubamam

    Scubamam New Member

    Messages:
    5
    Location:
    North Carolina
    No, it was on another outlet on the same circuit near the refridg.
  4. LLigetfa

    LLigetfa DIYer, not in the trades

    Messages:
    3,901
    Location:
    NW Ontario, Canada
    AFAIK there is no code requirement to label a protected outlet but doing so can reduce such nuisance citations. The proper way to test a GFI circuit is with a GFI tester.

    [​IMG]
  5. jimbo

    jimbo Plumber

    Messages:
    8,997
    Location:
    San Diego
    If you think you will prove incompetence on the part if an OSHA inspector, you have been smoking lefty luckies. The pen device was probably a simple voltage tester. Perhaps he found hot/neutral reversed, but most likely is just hitting up on GFI protection. Just find out exactly what was unsafe, and have your electrician fix it.
  6. Scubamam

    Scubamam New Member

    Messages:
    5
    Location:
    North Carolina
    The electrician already came and said all was to code. We made him change all outlets anyway because we were forced to make immediate change.
  7. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

    Messages:
    21,892
    Location:
    New England
    Out of curiosity, is this sink in a bathroom, or say a lunch area? If in a bathroom, and the refrigerator was in another room, that would be against code. If in the same room (say a lunch room), it should be okay, but it's generally a poor practice to run the frig and potentially a high current device (say someone plugged in a coffee maker) on the same circuit - it might overload the circuit, and if it tripped the GFCI behind the frig, it could be a big pain to reset, not counting the potential to lose anything that might be in there if nobody noticed quickly.

    But, as long as it is GFCI protected, it should be fine (assumig the GFCI is working).
  8. Scubamam

    Scubamam New Member

    Messages:
    5
    Location:
    North Carolina
    Yes it is a lunchroom and the gfci outlet is in clear sight just to the left of the refrigerator also very near the sink in question. Thanks for all of your help! I also pushed the button on this and had no power near the sink.
  9. Speedy Petey

    Speedy Petey Licensed Electrical Contractor

    Messages:
    991
    Location:
    NY State, USA
    And you think you will find this proof on the internet???
  10. Scubamam

    Scubamam New Member

    Messages:
    5
    Location:
    North Carolina
    No, I want a basic understanding so that I can at least have an intelligent dialogue when I contest this.
  11. ActionDave

    ActionDave Electrician

    Messages:
    345
    Location:
    Colorado
    Instructions for testing GFCI devices come in the box they are wrapped in. There may be a copy on one of the manufactures web site. I'm sure if you contacted Cooper of Leviton they would be able to help you.

    The inspector did not test the receptacle properly. The only true test is the test button on the device.
  12. jimbo

    jimbo Plumber

    Messages:
    8,997
    Location:
    San Diego
    action dave..... of course you are correct, but what do you think about OP's plan to "contest" the dig he got from OSHA???
  13. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
    26,487
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    qutoe;of course you are correct, but what do you think about OP's plan to "contest" the dig he got from OSHA

    Well, he can appeal it and probably win, but he had better hope that same inspector does not do the next inspection, because it will be done with a "fine tooth comb".
  14. ActionDave

    ActionDave Electrician

    Messages:
    345
    Location:
    Colorado
    The inspector is wrong. I would not start a conversation with him saying so, but I would contest the fine- calmly and politely. If he would not remove the fine I would move up the food chain to his boss.
  15. kreemoweet

    kreemoweet New Member

    Messages:
    371
    Location:
    Seattle. WA
    There has been no clear description of what the OSHA inspector did, what he tested and how, what the alleged
    infraction was, what the actual situation was at the time, or much else. Surely the OSHA inspector left some sort
    of written notice? To say a GFCI device was "on the same circuit" is pretty much meaningless. Even if there was
    a GFCI present and wired correctly to protect the receptacle in question, it may have failed, as we all know electrical
    devices sometimes do. With no facts, there can be no answers!
  16. LLigetfa

    LLigetfa DIYer, not in the trades

    Messages:
    3,901
    Location:
    NW Ontario, Canada
    Sounds to me like they used a non-contact circuit tester like the following.

    [​IMG]
  17. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
    26,487
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    All a "pen like device" can do is test for the presence of electricity. It CANNOT test for a GFCI circuit, CANNOT test a GFCI device, but CAN test for polarity if the user know what he is doing, which in this case may be suspect.
  18. DonL

    DonL Out of the Trades

    Messages:
    3,917
    Location:
    Houston, TX
    Next time you have a inspection take the OSHA inspector out to lunch.

    A OSHA inspector is never wrong.

    Just like the Boss...
  19. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
    26,487
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    1. The OSHA inspector is never wrong
    2. When the OSHA inspector is wrong, see #1.
  20. DonL

    DonL Out of the Trades

    Messages:
    3,917
    Location:
    Houston, TX
    That is exactly what I was thinking.

    The inspector most likely was testing polarity using a neon tester.

    They do work with only 1 connection. (The Human Body is the "test" return path)

    If polarity is reversed then the GFCI should trip if any load is put on that outlet. (Given the Ground is properly connected in the outlet.)

    Without a GFCI the outlet could be a hazard. I think it could be wired wrong. No reason for the inspector to look like a DA, Chances are they will prove their case. They will Win for sure.


    The Outlet should be Marked with a circuit number and GFCI warning but it is not always required by code.
    Last edited: Oct 18, 2012
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